|Harry Anderson, Jesus Praying in Gethsemane|
The Thursday before Easter is a day rich in deep, often poignant events. These include Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, at which he instituted the sacrament and washed his disciples’ feet; his prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; his betrayal by Judas and abandonment by the other disciples; and his arrest, cynical examination, and abuse by the Jewish authorities of the time.
Known as Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities, in many English-speaking countries this Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The word “maundy” is an early English form of the Latin mandatum for "commandment” and recalls Jesus’ teaching “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34).
In God So Loved the World, 49, I wrote:
While Latter-day Saints do not formally observe the day, the events commemorated in the gospel texts for Thursday hold great significance for us. Because we partake of the sacrament weekly, the Last Supper has particular meaning. Further, insights from restoration scripture and latter-day apostles and teachers regarding the atonement make the events in Gethsemane especially important. But Thursday also marks some beautiful final teachings of Jesus to his closest disciples, as well as other, difficult experiences-such as his betrayal, abuse, abandonment, and false judgment-that were important parts of his “descending below all things” (D&C 88:6; 122:8).Because of the importance of this evening, those celebrating with families may want to plan on extra time for reading and discussing the events of this day together (see “Ideas for Families” below).
Scriptural Accounts for Thursday: Mark 14:12–72; Matthew 26; Luke 22; John 13:1–18:27; see also Mosiah 3:7 and D&C 19:15–20
Episodes for Personal Study
- The Last Supper (Mark 14:12–31; Matt 26:17–35; Luke 22:7–38; John 13:1–38)
- The Farewell Discourses (Luke 22:24–30; John 13:31–17:26)
- Jesus Goes to Gethsemane: The Valley of the Shadow of Death” (18:1a)
- Jesus at Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42; Matt 26:36–47; Luke 22:39–46; John 18:1b)
- Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43–52; Matt 26:47–56; Luke 22:47–53; John 18:2–3)
- Jesus before the Jewish Authorities (Mark 14:43–65; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:54–71; John 18–28)
Suggested Interview: Listen to the first half of "Reflections on Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Resurrection," an interview with Andrew Skinner, a prominent LDS author and a professor of ancient scripture at BYU.
For further reading: Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 110–660.
Eric D. Huntsman, "The Lamb of God: Unique Aspects of the Passion Narrative in John," Behold the Lamb of God: An Easter Celebration (Provo: Religious Study Center, 2008), 49–70, n.b., 49–59.
Eric D. Huntsman, "Gethsemane and the Trial," Beholding Salvation Lecture Series, Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, March 14, 2007. Also an Audio CD by Deseret Book, 2007.
Andrew C, Skinner, Gethsemane (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002).
Dana M. Pike, "Before the Jewish Authorities," From the Last Supper to the Resurrection, 210–268.
Ideas for Families
|Remembering Maundy Thursday with the kids --- with the help of passages from Mark 14, John 13, Luke 22, an olive wood Last Supper carving from Bethlehem, and a small figurine of Jesus praying in Gethsemane|
- Read Mark’s account of the Last Supper. Discuss the sacrament and its symbolism, sharing how it helps us each week remember the Savior’s sacrifice for us
- Sing one of your favorite sacrament hymns.
- Discuss how Jesus washed the disciples feet and commanded that we should love one another. What are ways we can serve and love one another? Perhaps sing “Love One Another” together.
- Read Luke’s account of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, after reading Mosiah 3:7, Alma 7:11–13, and D&C 19:15–20, bear testimony of how Jesus took upon himself and suffered for our sins, infirmities, sorrows, and other challenges.
- Sing “Reverently and Meekly Now” (hymn 185).
- Emphasize that while Gethsemane was a critical part of the atonement, it was only the beginning. Testify that Jesus not only suffered for our sins in Gethsemane but he died for them on the cross.
Traditional Anglican collect for Maundy Thursday
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament f his Body and Blood: mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in thee holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Brief Discussion of the Events of the Thursday before Easter
See the much longer discussion in God So Loved the World, 49–69.
|Bloch, The Last Supper|
- Preparation of "the Passover" meal (Matt 26:17–19; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:7–13)
- The Last Supper with the Disciples (Matt 26:20–25; Mark 14:17–21; Luke 22:14–18)
- Institution of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:19–20)
- Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet (John 13:1–20)
- Jesus Foretells His Betrayal (Luke 22:21–23; John 13:21–30)
- The New Commandment to Love One Another (13:31–36)
- Peter’s Denial Foretold (Matt 26:31–35; Mark 14:26–31; Luke 22:31–38; John 13:36–38)
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:14–16; see D&C 27:5ff.)
|Crowds entering the Cenacle, the traditional site of the Last Supper on holy Thursday 2012|
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
|Holy Eucharist service in the Cenacle|
In accordance with this example it is the practice in the Roman Catholic and some other churches for bishops or spiritual leaders to wash the feet of token members of their flock on Maundy Thursday. Similar practices were performed by some European kings, who would wash the feet of peasants and make distributions of coins to the assembled crowds. In the Church today, the ordinance itself is reserved for sacred occasions, but the example of loving and serving others is lived every day.
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. . . . So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:3–5, 12–17)
J. Kirk Richards, Greatest in the Kingdom
|Washing of the feet at Notre Dame of Jerusalem, Holy Thursday 2012|
|Queen Elizabeth after Maundy Thursday services at Blackburn Cathedral, 2014|
THE FAREWELL DISCOURSES
John also preserves several lengthy discourses delivered during and right after the Last Supper (14:1–17:26). These focus on the love of Jesus, our relationship to him, and our need to likewise love one another.
- Christ’s Departure: Jesus the Way to the Father (14:1–14)
- Promise of the Holy Spirit or Paraclete (or "Comforter," 14:15–26)
- Peace and the Love of the Father (14:27–31)
- Jesus the True Vine (15:1–17)
- The Hatred of the World (15:18–16:4a)
- Christ’s Departure: The Work of the Spirit (16:4b–15)
- Christ’s Departure: Sorrow Will Turn to Joy (16:16–24)
- Peace and the Love of the Father (16:25–33)
- Part 3
Throughout the discourses, but especially in chapters 14 and 16, Jesus focuses on the imminence of his departure, but insists that his coming sacrifice is necessary for our salvation. In the famous opening of the first discourse, he assured his disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1–3)The teachings in these discourses are too rich to give even a perfunctory review here. Instead we only note the love that motivated Jesus’ great atoning sacrifice and the powerful parallel of the sorrow of the passion to the pains of a woman in childbirth—terrible at the time but giving way to greater joy.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12–13)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:20–22)
The discourses end with the famous Intercessory Prayer, also known as the Great High Priestly Prayer, of chapter 17 wherein Jesus explained the purpose of his sacrifice: to make us one with each other and one with God and Christ. This is, in reality, the essence of the Atonement—the at-one-ment—and having prayed that God will grant this end, he went forth ready to do what was necessary to bring it about.
|Elaine at the "Tomb of Absalom," Holy Thursday 2012|
The pivotal moment of this night, however, was Jesus' great struggle in Gethsemane, "the place of the wine press." To get there, John 18:1 records that Jesus and his disciples needed to cross over the Qidron Valley (KJV, "the brook Cedron"), the deep valley to the east that separated the city and the temple mount from the Mount of Olives. Anciently the valley was so deep that much of it was in shadow through much of the day. Passing through the valley under the Passover moon, Jesus and his disciples would have seen numerous tombs that filled the lower slopes of the southern side of the Mount of Olives. Both of these facts gave poignant meaning to the well-known passage from 23:3, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me . . .”
|The Qidron Valley after the Holy Thursday Night service in the Basilica of the Agony at Gethsemane, 2012|
JESUS AT GETHSEMANE
|An ancient olive tree in Gethsemane|
- Jesus Prays that his disciples not enter into "temptation" or "the time of trial" (peirasmon; Luke 22:40)
- Jesus Has the Disciples, Presumably Eleven of the Twelve but Perhaps Including Others at this Point, Sit Apart and Takes Peter, James and John Further (Mark 14:32b–33a; Matt 26:36b–37a)
- Jesus’ Soul Becomes Sorrowful; Three Disciples Asked to Pray (Mark 14:33b–34; Matt 26:37b–38)
- Jesus Suffers and Prays that the Cup May Pass (Mark 14:33–36; Matt 26:37–39; Luke 22:41–42)
- An Angel Appears to Strengthen Jesus [Luke 22:43]
- Jesus Sweats Blood [Luke 22:44]
- Finds Peter, James, and John Sleeping (three times: Mark 14:37–42; Matt 26:40–46; only once: Luke 22:45–46)
Later, in Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be ‘sore amazed’ (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, ‘awestruck’ and ‘astonished.’ Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, "astonished!" Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him!
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. ‘And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.’ (Mark 14:35–36.)" (Neal A. Maxwell, "Willing to Submit," Ensign, May 1985, 70ff.)
|Olive screw press at the BYU Jerusalem Center|
Mark, Matthew, and Luke agree on what happened next. Falling upon the ground, he pled with his Father that thus cup could pass, but then in harmony with his nature since the beginning, he submitted to his Father's will.
When in the wondrous realms above our Savior had been called upon to save our world of sin by love, He said, "Thy will, O Lord, be done.”
The King of Kings left worlds of light, became the meek and lowly One; in brightest day or darkest night, He said, “Thy will, O Lord, be done.” (hymn 188)
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. (Mosiah 3:7)
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (D&C 19:16–19)
|Heinrich Hofmann, Christ in Gethsemane|
Rev’rently and meekly now, Let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one; Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain, Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee. (Hymn 185; see the discussion in God So Loved the World, 63).
|My family in the Garden of Gethsemane in November 2011.|
As important as unique Latter-day Saint insights are regarding the significance of what happened in Gethsemane, perhaps we should be careful not to "over-correct," assuming that the atonement occurred in Gethsemane alone. Jesus not only suffered the weight of our sins and sorrows, he suffered and died for them. Indeed, following the sacrificial procedure, the sacrifice first receives the guilt, is then led to the altar, is slain for the sins, and then consumed in the fire, thereby ascending into heaven. The Gethsemane experience, so well-explained in Mosiah 3 and D&C 18 thus began the process that would continue all the way to the cross, and indeed, to the Empty Tomb and the Risen Lord's ascension into heaven.
|Holman, The Scapegoat. Like the scapegoat, Jesus emerged from Gethsemane bearing our sins and transgressions. Like the sin offering, he would bear them to the altar of his cross.|
BETRAYAL AND ARREST OF JESUS
|Giotto, Arrest of Jesus (Kiss of Judas)|
- Judas Leads Arresting Party to Jesus (Mark 14:43; Matt 26:47; Luke 22:47a; John 18:2–3)
- Judas Identifies Jesus with a Kiss (Mark 14:44–46; Matt 26:48–50; Luke 22:47b–48)
- Jesus’ "I Am" Proclamation to the Arresting Party (John 18:4–8a)
- Jesus Intervenes for His Disciples (John 18:8b–9)
- Servant of the High Priest Wounded (Mark 14:47; Matt 26:51; Luke 22:49–50; John 18:10)
- Jesus Rebukes the Defending Disciple (Matt 26:52–54; Luke 22:51a; John 18:11)
- Jesus Heals the High Priest’s Servant (Luke 22:51b)
- Jesus Rebukes the Arresting Party (Mark 14:48–50; Matt 26:55–56a; Luke 22:52–53)
- Disciples Abandon Jesus (Mark 14:50; Matt 26:56b)
- Young Man in the Linen Cloth (Mark 14:51–52)
JESUS BEFORE THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES
- Jesus before the former High Priest Annas (John 18:12–14; 19–24)
- Jesus Before the High Caiaphas and members of the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–64; Matt 26:57–68; Luke 22:54a [22:66–71 after the denial and the mocking]; John 18:24, 28)
- Jesus Mocked by the Jewish Guards (Mark 14:65; Matt 26:67–68; Luke 22:63–65)
- Peter’s Denial (Mark 14:66–72; Matt 26:69–75; Luke 22:54b–62; John 18:17–27)
- Morning Hearing Before the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:1; Matt 27:1; Luke 22:63–71)
|St. Peter in Gallicantu with archaeological remains|
Two different sites on Mount Zion, just south of the current Old City, claim to commemorate the place where Jesus was examined, held, and abused by the Jewish authorities. One is the Armenian "House of Caiaphas." The other is the Franciscan St. Peter in Gallicantu, or "Peter of the Cock Crow." This St. Peter's is built over the remains of a first century mansion that does, indeed, have a dungeon and holding cells in its basement.
|Looking down into the "Sacred Pit" under St. Peter's in Gallicantu|
|The "scourging place" in the ruins under St. Peter's in Gallicantu|
Today's Messiah reflections
Most of the movements in the Passion section of Handel's Messiah refer to the abuse and suffering that Jesus experienced in the hands of the Romans on Good Friday. But since his handling by the Jewish authorities acts of cruelty and abuse parallel to those that he would suffer from the Romans, some of the movements that tell of rebuke, rejection, and abuse also fit for late on Thursday night. Indeed, coming from his own people, some of the abuse from the Sanhedrin and its guards may have come as an even greater rejection.
Thy rebuke hath broken his heart,
He is full of heaviness;
Thy rebuke has broken his heart.
He looked for some to have pity on Him,
but there was no man
neither found He any to comfort him (cf. Psalm 69:20).
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow
like unto his sorrow (Lamentation 1:12).
He was despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
He gave His back to smiters,
and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hairs:
He his not his face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 52:3a; 50:6).
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Here is a link to pictures and video clips from our experience in Jerusalem for Maundy Thursday in 2012.
Ideas for Celebrating Easter | A Working Chronology | The Raising of Lazarus | The Symbolism of Jesus as Anointed King and Priest: The Anointing in John
The Passion Week and the Resurrection